Banff

I’ve always wanted to go to Banff, I just didn’t think I’d go when it was -30 degrees there. I’ve always been terrible with the cold. Once the temperatures dipped below 10 degrees, it's cold for me. To say I had some reservations about going to Banff in the winter time when the average day time temperature is -10 degrees in the winter was a bit of an understatement. I thought I would come back home as a human Popsicle.

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We took the Banff Airporter shuttle bus from Calgary airport. The drive was flat and featureless until a horizon of endless mountains sprung up when we approached Canmore.

I went for a walk to the grocery store the next morning and was taken aback by how close the mountains were. Or maybe they’re just much larger than the mountains I’m used to seeing in Vancouver.

I also saw some magpies! I’m told they’re the crows of Alberta, but I think they’re much prettier and more pleasant than the crows we get here in Vancouver.

That night we took the Banff Gondola up for dinner and some sightseeing. The dinner at Sky Bistro was the best we had all trip and the views were stunning. No stars though as it was overcast. It was also around -36 degrees out with windchill and I was only able to stand outside for maybe 5mins before my hands started hurting.

The ride down was also interesting as there were no lights in the gondola so as soon as we left the peak it felt like we were descending into the darkness haha. Taking the bus back home was interesting too. The bus runs very infrequently in Banff, every 45-60mins so we sat there for a long time wondering if it would ever come.

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The next day I walked across the frozen Bow River. I felt that it was a safe walk across as there was a very clean worn footpath in the snow covering the river, but just a few hundred metres down, the water was very clearly running and not frozen.

We signed up to do a guided ice walk in Johnston Canyon which was filled with frozen waterfalls and very picturesque. Our guide, Aaron had a thing for lichen as he called out all the different sorts of lichen every time we came across some. I’m definitely gonna be paying more attention to lichen now though whenever I find myself in the woods in Vancouver.

The next day we went to Lake Louise and honestly the photos don’t do it justice. It was seriously beautiful there. Since the lake was completely frozen over, we tried to walk across the whole thing. After walking for what seemed like forever, I checked my phone’s GPS to see how far we made it and we were halfway. We decided to turn back haha.

When we got back to the Fairmont, we rented skates and had a whole section of the frozen lake to ourselves. I really wanted to be able to skate on Lake Louise and skated every week for the previous 5 weeks, even getting a couple of my hockey player friends to come to give me tips. The practice was really worth it as despite falling on my ass a couple of times, it was a lot of fun. Even learned how to stop!

We also did a snowshoeing tour in Kootenay, which is actually in BC and was just a 30min drive away from Banff. It was fun to snowshoe again as I haven't snowshoed since I was in elementary school.

Both guided tours that we did actually exceed my expectations. The guides were helpful and friendly and the overall experience was great!

On our last day, we went to the Calgary Zoo. We had to check out of the hotel at 11am and didn’t have anything to do until our flights in the evening so the zoo was a good bet! They had a nice penguin exhibit and I really enjoyed that it was eye level.

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Never been this close to an owl before! I think I was around 10-15ft from the guy on the left.

Some of the animals there had a thing for cardboard boxes. The mountain goats we saw there also had their head in a cardboard box haha. Was also happy to get a much better view of a snow leopard this time now that it was actually cold out. The snow leopard that I saw in the San Diego Zoo looked like it was suffering a little.

Overall the trip was fantastic. I handled the cold much better than I thought I would. As long as you layer up, you’re gonna be fine, though I did find out that wind burns are a thing.

Not pictured, but the highlight of my trip might have been snowboarding for the first time. I’ve always wanted to give it a try and thought this would be a good opportunity. A lot of people were telling me how your first time out on a snowboard can be pretty miserable but I had a great time! Thinking it might be a good substitute for mountain biking for me!

Lastly, I wanted to talk about how impressed I am with my little Fuji XT100. I got this camera for travel as I didn’t want to carry around my big work camera and am very happy with how it’s been. The image quality is surprisingly good and it’s also surprisingly durable! When we were snowshoeing we did a race and I face planted into the snow and my camera was completely covered and caked in snow and it was just fine! Really recommend it if you’re looking for an affordable mirrorless travel camera.

Wilson Lau

Vancouver, Canada

Photographer of weddings, and people alike.